Wynnefield Heights, as it currently is, is highly disconnected, broken by arterials into a series of superblocks later split into subdivisions and towers-in-parks. From the five points at the center of Wynnefield Heights, where Monument and Ford Roads and Conshohocken Avenue all meet, no fewer than four of the radiating blocks are superblocks (see Figure A). Two of these are occupied by the mammoth Belmont Filters water plant; one is occupied by a row of towers-in-parks punctuated by a megachurch; and the last, by the Belmont Behavioral Health Center and a large Methodist facility constituting a former orphanage and a major assisted-living center.
|Figure A: Current Road Network. Note disconnectedness.|
|Figure B: Road network additions (in red) help cut the superblocks down to size.|
|Figure C: Multi-use trails (in yellow) to be added in and around Wynnefield Heights.|
|Figure D: Streets and trails intertwine to provide greater interconnectivity.|
These extensions necessitate an expansion of the public realm in Wynnefield Heights. While there has only been one traditional way to extend the public realm--acquisition via eminent domain--in Wynnefield Heights, two other opportunities besides present themselves. These two are simply to build where the property is already public and to work out an agreement by which towers-in-parks allow public access on their already-existing streets in return for alternative compensation--such as density bonuses or a tax break. This latter method is employed as the predominant method to break up the Northern Superblock: instead of using eminent domain and transferring all the necessary private drives to the public realm, eminent domain is used only where major modifications need to be made to offer accessibility, while these public-private agreements--sort of like the City leasing rights to the existing private drive--ensure access into the heart of the superblock.
Another issue is the extreme grades from the plateau down to the Schuylkill--a drop of some 200 feet. A bridge is planned for over Roberts Hollow between tentatively-named Country Club Road and Neill Drive; this bridge allows a cutoff for people wishing to access eastern Wynnefield Heights without passing through the five points or dropping all the way down Neill Drive and winding all the way back up Conshohocken Avenue. Getting good trail access around this hollow will be tricky.
|Figure F: First phase of a transit plan. This network uses the 38, 39, 40, and 65 to access every important Heights location.|
|Figure G: A longer-term outlook for Wynnefield Heights transit. On this map, the prospective light rail line is labeled "100".|
Wynnefield Heights, as it currently is, is a highly disconnected and suburban neighborhood. By improving street and pedestrian interconnections, and by re-examining the bus network, the Heights can be a far more interconnected--and hence urbane--place to live.
Next time I will talk about built form modifications in Wynnefield Heights.